USC Men's Basketball

As Justin Minaya nears a return, the USC forward could have a decision to make

Since the last time Justin Minaya appeared in a South Carolina game, the Gamecocks have changed in more than a few ways.

There’s been lineup tweaks, more injuries, a long losing streak and, now, a significant winning streak. USC (8-7 overall) is 3-0 in the SEC as it approaches a Wednesday clash at Vanderbilt.

Minaya, sidelined since suffering a knee injury in practice before Carolina’s loss to Wofford on Nov. 26, is “close” to being cleared again for practice, Frank Martin said Monday.

“We need his quads to get to a place where they’re as strong as the hamstrings,” Martin said. “And he’s working at it really hard. He’s getting tested later (Monday) ... for that quad strength. And as soon as that quad gets to 85 percent of the other quad, he’ll be cleared to start doing stuff on the court.”

Minaya had surgery in late November. Around that time, Martin had discussions with Minaya’s parents about the possibility of their son taking a medical redshirt.

Once someone plays after Jan. 16 (Wednesday), he’s no longer eligible for the redshirt. That date factored into T.J. Moss’ decision, announced last week.

Frustrated by his progress, Minaya met with Martin earlier this month.

“Why are you worried, man?” Martin said he told Minaya, a sophomore swingman. “So you get cleared on Jan. 15 and you go out and you play and Jan. 18, you play a game and your knee swells up at night and now you’re out three weeks. You’re in the same boat.

“Why are you worried about it? Don’t worry about it. Get yourself healthy, practice. When you feel good about your body and you’re in a place where they tell you you’re good to go, your body’s telling you you’re good to go, then you make the decision.”

To redshirt or not.

“I’m going to support what’s best for the young man and what his family wants to do,” Martin said. “I’m always going to be in that situation. I’m not going to force somebody to play in a game above what’s best for them.”

Minaya, a valued perimeter defender, is averaging 7.4 points and 5.6 rebounds this season. He made 30 starts as a freshman.

Freshman Keyshawn Bryant has started in Minaya’s place. The rookie led the Gamecocks with 15 points on Sunday against Missouri.

How would Martin mesh the two of them together?

“(Minaya) and Keyshawn are two completely different players,” Martin said. “They play differently. I haven’t sat down and tried to figure that one out yet. That’s one of those, I’ll cross that bridge when I get there kind of deals.”

Andrew Ramspacher has been covering college athletics since 2010, serving as The State’s USC men’s basketball beat writer since October 2017. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors, Virginia Press Association and West Virginia Press Association. At a program-listed 5-foot-10, he’s always been destined to write about the game. Not play it.
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